How to Apply a Half-Limb Cast and Elevated Support Limb Shoe

There are many situations when casting a horse's lower limb can be beneficial, such as when he has a fracture of a pastern bone, a tendon or ligament injury, or a wound that won't heal because of excess movement. At the 2007 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Orlando, Fla., a discussion on how to apply a half-limb cast and elevated supporting limb shoe was presented by Ryan Carpenter, DVM, a resident in veterinary clinical sciences at Colorado State University.

Compared to a bandage, Carpenter said, the half-limb cast offers better immobilization, better durability, and less expense (the latter because it's cheaper than multiple bandage changes). However, pressure sores are a risk if the fetlock joint is improperly angled within the cast.

Carpenter described a technique in which the lower limb cast is applied to the standing horse, avoiding the risks and expense of general anesthesia. Key to this approach is placing the foot to be casted on a narrow wooden block (2 inches by 2 inches) so the heels and toe hang off the block. This allows most of the cast to be applied with the horse standing in a normal, full weight-bearing position; this helps reduce poor fit and pressure sores.

Another important part of this procedure is the application of a pad and frog support material, possibly along with a shaped wooden block, to the opposite front or hind (contralateral) limb if the casting material is thick enough on the bottom of the foot to effectively lengthen that leg. This promotes even weight bearing on both limbs and aims to minimize muscle soreness and the risk of contralateral limb laminitis.

The study authors have applied more than 30 of these casts, with about two-thirds on hind limbs and one-third on forelimbs, and they report minimal complications.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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